Monday, December 18, 2006
Roast Beef with Onions
1 large onion, peeled, halved, and cut into thin slivers
2-3 pounds beef (such as a rump roast), if the roast is very tall, I usually cut it in half
salt and pepper to taste
Place slivered onions in the bottom of an enameled cast iron pot (I use Le Creuset). Place beef on top of onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover pot and put in the oven. Turn oven to 325 degrees. Let beef cook for about 3 hours. Remove from oven. To serve, pull beef apart and place on plate. Top with onions and juice. I serve with green beans and shallots and mashed potatoes.
If you have leftover beef, make beef and onion soup the next evening.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
What is Christmas without a little Egg Nog? I’ve tried the grocery store carton variety. That stuff is way too thick with natural or artificial thickeners. They left me feeling like I needed to cough up phlegm for the rest of the evening. The only cure would be to add an exorbitant amount of alcohol and then act like an utter drunken idiot. I searched for an egg nog recipe. Many of them do not “cook” the eggs; they let the alcohol do the job. But I wanted a recipe that could be served with or without alcohol. After a few attempts at following a “cooked” egg recipe, I gave up the Christmas ghost and started experimenting. The recipe that follows is fairly simple, cooks the eggs, and is flexible enough to serve to friends that imbibe or not.
pjpink’s Egg Nog
10 egg yolks (save the whites for meringue, etc.)
1 cup sugar
4 cups skim milk, scalded (microwave until hot, but not boiling)
½ cup cream (or more, to taste)
1 tablespoon vanilla (please, use the real stuff!)
Nutmeg, to taste
Bourbon (I prefer Wild Turkey) or your preferred liquor (my 2nd choice would be Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum)
Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl or the top of a double boiler. Place bowl over a pot half filled with water over a burner. Turn the burner to medium high to boil the water and then turn the burner to medium low. Heat the egg mixture for about 5-10 minutes, whisking constantly. Begin mixing the scalded milk by spoonfuls, always whisking. Be careful not to scramble the eggs. Once a few spoonfuls have been mixed successfully, begin transferring the milk by ¼ cups into the bowl. When all of the milk has been transferred, stir constantly with a metal spoon until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. This will take 15-30 minutes. Take the mixture off the pot and let cool for about 30 minutes. Pour the mixture through a strainer into another bowl and place in the refrigerator uncovered until completely cold. At this point you can cover and serve within the next 3-5 days. Right before serving, stir in cream and vanilla. To serve, fill egg nog mug with desired amount of alcohol, add egg nog mixture, sprinkle with nutmeg, stir, and enjoy.
We were back at Zed Café on
And for adults, Buz and Ned’s lists all manner of adult beverages to go with your barbecue or ribs from beer to tequila to whisky to wine (Red Zin, Shiraz, and Cotes du Rhone, mainly).
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Butternut Squash Soup
5 tablespoons butter
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into small pieces
3 leeks, diced (white and pale green parts only)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
½ of a fennel bulb, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
6 cups chicken stock or broth
½ cup whipping cream
Fresh chives, chopped
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium high heat. Add squash, leeks, carrots, and fennel. Sauté until softened, about 20-30 minutes. Stir in apples, thyme, and sage. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for about 30-45 minutes. Turn off burner and remove soup from heat source. Using an emulsifier (aka boat motor), puree soup (you can also use a blender or food processor). Return soup to burner and heat on low. Right before serving, stir in whipping cream. Ladle soup into bowls. Place a dollop of crème fraiche in the middle of the soup. Sprinkle with chives.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
1. Chateau Haut Surget 2003 Lalande-de-Pomerol: 70% Merlot, 15% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Plenty of red cherry notes here as well as bacon and tobacco. So, this wine was part of the tasting at River City Cellars on Friday (they had a spectacular Bordeaux tasting last week!). Hubby and I really liked it. When we arrived at Chez Max – voila! – the wine list carried it. River City Cellars price: ~$25. Chez Max price: $48 (since twice retail is usually the going rate, we weren’t complaining and we knew exactly what we were getting).
2. Tuna Tartar ($12.95). This was a special appetizer for the evening. Sushi grade tuna chopped and tossed with minced shallots and capers. My husband ordered this and I had to take numerous bites. Before ordering the Haut Surget, we had a glass of Grandin Brut, a Loire sparkling wine ($8.95). The two paired very well together.
3. Duck Breast with a Green Peppercorn Sauce ($26.95). Tender, sliced duck breast, prepared medium with a cognac peppercorn sauce – not too overpowering on the peppercorns. Very lovely, served with mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans.
4. Molten Chocolate Cake ($6.95). A few years ago hubby and I had dined at Chez Max for an anniversary celebration. For dessert I had ordered Crème Brule. It was sheer heaven. The best I have ever eaten. Since the memory of this dish left such dreamy thoughts, I assumed that all of the desserts would be equally as delightful. Sadly, I had a lapse in judgment. While the cake had a great chocolate flavor, it had not been heated enough to melt the chocolate inside, leaving me with a somewhat chocolate gelatinous interior to slice through.
I would recommend Chez Max as far as appetizers and entrees. If you want dessert, always order the Crème Brule.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Bowl Game Salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
2 tablespoons onion, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup corn, cut fresh from the cob (if you can’t get it fresh, use frozen white corn)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Sauté corn in peanut oil for a few minutes to desired tenderness. Place in serving bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or make your own…
Quick Tortilla Chips
Flour or corn tortillas
Peanut or olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Stack tortillas 3 high on a cutting board. Cut into strips using a pizza cutter. Place strips on baking sheet. Brush each strip with oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until slightly brown. Serve with salsa.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
One Fresh Bell & Evans Turkey
The Fresh Market began carrying Bell & Evans last year and I was impressed. The bird just seemed to taste better. I also appreciated the dark meat which was actually dark and packed with scrumptious flavor. Preparation is fairly simple: salt and pepper between the breast and skin and the leg and skin. Add pats of real butter (I go all out and use Plugra) between breast and skin and leg and skin. Insert herbs between breast and skin and leg and skin. This year I placed thyme on the breast and rosemary on the legs. I roast the bird in an electric roaster. The roaster keeps the turkey moist and frees up the oven for dressing.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Yukon golds, Plugra butter, a few garlic cloves, a tiny amount of cream, salt, and pepper. I make sure we have enough potatoes left over to make potato cakes for breakfast the next morning.
Sautéed Green Beans and Shallots
Sauté the shallots in butter until just caramelized, add fresh beans that have been soaked and then boiled in salted water. I cooked the beans until they were soft because I had diners who preferred them that way.
I make a roux of butter and flour and then pour in juices from the cooked turkey. This year I had enough turkey drippings to forego the addition of canned chicken broth.
A bunch of fresh cranberries, the juice of a lemon and orange, a couple of cinnamon sticks. Add water and a ton of sugar. Boil to jam-like consistency. I did not add enough sugar for eating at the Thanksgiving table, but I reheated and added more of the sweet stuff. This made a great alternative spread for the inevitable turkey sandwiches. I also liked it on toast. I wished we had had some biscuits.
While most of the menu is fairly standard, I always try to make a different type of dressing every year. This year I wanted to make something with fennel. Alas, the store was out of fennel, so, I used my imagination and made it up as I went along. It turned out to be quite popular. And, of course, I’ll never be able to quite repeat it, but here is the list of ingredients: a loaf of sesame bread and a loaf of challah torn into bite-sized chunks and toasted; toasted pine nuts; crushed fennel seeds; sautéed onions and leeks; a couple of Irish banger sausage links fried and sliced thin; minced garlic; turkey broth from boiling the turkey neck supplemented with some chicken broth. Combine everything and bake for an hour. It was yummy!
We washed it down with a sparkling rose.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Very tasty, laid back, with an extremely nice and attentive wait staff. If you like fish and seafood, you must experience it!
Next course – I ordered Steamed Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers over Mixed Greens topped with Asian Dressing, Sweet Potato Fires, Red Peppers, and Crispy Noodles. The Pot Sticker dough was thin (just how I like it) and the filling was very flavorful leaning more toward pork than shrimp. The Asian dressing seemed to be more for the pot stickers because it was not drizzled over the mixed greens. But the shoestring cut fried sweet potatoes made up for the lack of dressing on the actual salad. A decent light lunch, but I knew around 3 PM I would need a snack. My husband had the Tuna Salad Served with Fresh Fruit and Crackers. Typical tea room fare, and while good, nothing spectacular.
Chez Foushee was a decent place for lunch, but not worth making special plans.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
2 veal shanks, ~ ½ pound each
¼ cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried sage
½ cup dry white wine
Tomato puree (I used about ½ of a 28 ounce can)
Freshly grated Romano cheese
Salt and pepper the shanks. Put flour in a zip close bag. Place shanks in the bag. Seal bag and shake to coat the veal. Pour olive oil in a small deep-sided frying pan and heat on medium high until oil is almost smoking. Put shanks in the pan and sear for about 3 minutes on each side. Take shanks out of the pan and set aside. Put onions in the pan, sprinkle with salt, and sauté for about 3-5 minutes on medium. When the onions are beginning to become translucent, add the garlic and sage. Sauté for another minute and pour in white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio from Cycles Gladiator). Turn heat up to medium high and let the white wine reduce by at least half. Once reduced, add about ½ a cup of tomato puree and stir. Nestle the shanks in the sauce and spoon about another ½ cup of puree into the pan, letting the sauce come up about to the top of the shanks. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Let simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, turning the shanks occasionally. Serve over angel hair pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Romano cheese.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
My husband and I traveled to DC this past weekend. Highlights included:
Best Show: Corteo – Cirque du Soleil’s traveling show now performing under the Chapiteau in the heart of our Nation’s Capital. A wild romp complete with lingerie bedecked acrobats swinging from the chandeliers. http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/CirqueDuSoleil/
The Place for a Cheap Martini: Medaterra – This bistro, located at
Our Latest Italian Find: Dino http://www.dino-dc.com/ – The address is
Avinyo Brut Reserva Rosado – A Cava (sparkling wine) from the Penedes region in
Thursday, November 02, 2006
White wine is not my usual thing, but I do tend to sigh over a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. And with the 2005 Giesen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, I’m downright rapturous. For me, it’s the grapefruit. The website - http://www.giesen.co.nz/ - describes the taste as citrus. Citrus can conjure up a variety of remembered tastes from pucker-up lemon to honeyed tangerines. With this wine we are talking in your face grapefruit. I think it pairs well with salads and can stand up to most salad dressings. The other night I served it with a Curried Carrot and Apple Soup. Delightful!
Monday, October 30, 2006
My Mom and I took a little trip to
Sunday, October 22, 2006
What a whirlwind of restaurants and food lately. Of course, my husband going out of town really sparked this eating out spike. And it turned out to be a fairly diverse group of eateries as well.
- Zed Café (www.zedcafeonline.com) – A recent addition to the
Lakeside Ave.restaurant scene. It’s now open for dinner Thursday – Saturday and features organic meats and produce along with vegetarian dishes. Highlights included a non-alcoholic libation entitled Love Portion #9 – pomegranate juice and organic lemonade – served in very tall, vase-like glasses; Red Pepper Tart with Roasted Olives – roasted peppers and feta between very thin slices of eggplant; Tea Infused Boiled Eggs that came with the salad; and a Mocha that was about as different as one can get from the Starbucks variety (and since I ordered it without looking at the drink menu, and since mocha was not listed on the drink menu, I think the waiter just made it up!) – My “Mocha” had very little coffee, if any, in it and no steamed milk. It did contain unsweetened melted chocolate which served a similar digestive purpose that an espresso after dinner would. Espresso has always been too bitter for me, but this “Mocha” struck a better balance between flavor and bitter. Since what I had was nowhere to be seen on the menu, it will be interesting if Zed continues to serve it. I would order it again. By the way, this past weekend Zed acquired a license to sell wine.
- Positive Vibe Café (www.positivevibecafe.com) – My friend 007 wanted to take me out for my birthday and we decided to be Positive. Positive Vibe (located in the
off of Stratford Hills Shopping Center Forest Hill Ave.) serves as a training facility for persons with disabilities to learn food service skills and to help folks go on to secure employment in the community. The wait staff is made up of volunteers from the community. Positive Vibe also focuses on organic products. Highlights were Avocado Corn Salsa – the salsa had nice avocado chunks and white corn (not too spicy), accompanied by blue corn chips; Buffalo Bistro Steak – I had a choice of the 5 or 10 ounce size, I opted for the smaller version, very tasty and lean, and grilled medium rare; Chocolate Chip Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream – an intense chocolate brownie made at the restaurant topped with Bev’s ice cream. How could one go wrong? Positive Vibe has live music on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. So, what are you waiting for? Get Positive!
- Brio Tuscan Grille (www.brioitalian.com) – Yes, I do occasionally eat at a chain restaurant, especially those who send $10 off coupons around my birthday! My hubby was finally back in town. Yesterday was beautiful and we decided to go to the Art Affair event at
Stony Pointand eat lunch at Brio’s. Highlights included the Ultimate Cosmopolitan – Grey Goose vodka, Grand Marnier, a splash or cranberry juice for color and a slice of lime; Chicken Milanese Pomodoro – Romano and breadcrumb encrusted chicken breast topped with melted fresh mozzarella nestled in herbed spaghetti and surrounded by Pomodoro sauce. The herbed spaghetti makes this dish and since the tomato sauce surrounds the pasta and does not cover it, I can enjoy the pasta two different ways. The chicken is tasty, too. I almost always get this dish when I go to Brio’s. It has a lot of flavor and it’s so big that I always have leftovers to enjoy for another day. Now, if only they would do a better job at pricing their wine list and if the male waiters would drop the faux Italian image…
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
My husband had a dilemma. My birthday happened to fall on a Sunday this year. He wanted to take me out for a nice supper. As he called around to some of our favorite places, he discovered that almost all of them were closed on Sunday. A chain restaurant was simply out of the question. But he can be a persevering soul and when the day finally arrived, we drove down to Shockoe Slip and landed at La Grotta. The décor has this underground wine cellar atmosphere crossed with medieval looking furniture and ironwork. Although the restaurant does not immediately come to mind when thinking about places to eat, the setting is unique enough to intrigue out-of-town visitors.
Because it was my birthday, I celebrated with a Cosmopolitan for starters. Bread, grissini, and ciabatta arrived in short order accompanied by a garlic, eggplant, and olive oil tapenade (heavy on the garlic). The wine list was fairly extensive. But only one wine caught our eye at a somewhat decent price: 2003 Vietti Langhe Nebbiolo ($45). Bold, full-bodied, and smooth. We were happy.
The menu tempted us with several salad choices. I ordered the Insalata de Campagna – Julienne of radicchio and fennel, tossed in a white balsamic dressing and topped with prosciutto and shaved parmesan. I liked the play of the bitter radicchio against the subtle balsamic dressing. The cheese came in large shaved sheets and was strong enough to stand up to the bitter red cabbage. The prosciutto seemed to have been soaking in some kind of liquid to keep it moist, which made it a bit suspect. And believe it or not, the salad paired decently with the wine. My husband stuck to tradition and selected the Insalata Tricolore – Homemade mozzarella, tomato, and organic baby greens tossed in a white balsamic dressing. His was tasty with no surprises.
Selecting the entrée turned out to be more difficult than the salad selection. The filet, New Your strip, and the quail all caught my eye. In the end I ordered the special – Veal Chop with cheese melted on top and finished with black truffle oil. The veal was medium and extremely tender. The cheese (something akin to Fontina) was a little too rich for my tastes. The balck truffle oil seemed to be non-existent. So, while I enjoyed the chop, itself, the enhancements left my taste buds a little flat. My husband ordered the Filetto al Pepe Verde – Filet mignon finished in a green peppercorn and cognac sauce. He liked how the green peppercorn sauce permeated the entire filet, adding a delightful piquancy to his meal. Both meals were served with mashed potatoes with possibly mashed parsnips added and sautéed Swiss chard. The potatoes were decent and gave us a taste of Fall. The Swiss chard (served instead of spinach) was another story. I had never had Swiss chard. I’ll probably never have it again. It was all I could do to chew and swallow. This is the type of green vegetable that is way too green for me. At least I attempted it.
For dessert we shared a Tartufo – a core of vanilla ice cream surrounded by chocolate ice cream, dusted with cocoa, and nestled in a hazelnut cream sauce. Dessert was heavenly. The dusting of cocoa added just the right amount of pizzazz.
Pat took excellent care of us the entire time. He did not rush the meal and he kept the wine flowing the entire time, well, at least until the bottle ran dry.
So, if you need a Sunday supper solution, head on down to La Grotta. In fact, I think the last time my husband’s birthday was on a Sunday, we ate at La Grotta, too.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Old City Bar
Zeus Gallery Cafe
I hope all of you made it to The National Folk Festival this past weekend. It was a blast, especially Willie King and the Liberators. After being at the festival all day, we were craving pizza for dinner. We generally do not do the chains, and we weren't in the mood for our usual fare from Zorba's (on MacArthur). So, we took a chance on Roma's located on Staples Mill. We called in a pick up order for a medium Roma Combo - pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions (NO SUBSTITUTIONS). Cost: $17.75. The medium was huge and I'm having leftovers tonight. We liked the thin crust and the sauce was fantastic. A decent amount of pepperoni and sausage kept us satisfied. And there was a mound of veggies which was good and not so good. I don't like mushrooms, but since NO SUSTITUTIONS were allowed, I thought I could easily pick them off. I was wrong, but I endeavored. The green peppers had been cooked to almost mush. not what I expect from peppers on a pizza. The onions were plentiful and fine. Next time, and despite the flaws in the combo, there will be a next time, we will opt for a small pepperoni, sausage, and onion pie.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
A hint of chocolate on the nose, a bright fruit tang on the tongue, and an ample amount of body as it slides down the throat. Let’s all raise a toast with the 2002 J. Garcia Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. I was able to pick mine up at The Fresh Market for $13.99. Of course, the label caught my eye at first. Clos du Bois, which has partnered with the Garcia estate, produces the wine and uses a Jerry Garcia painting as the backdrop for the wine label. Check it out - http://jgarciawine.com/.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Stew – another weather related recipe. And a great remedy for a cold, rainy, and downright miserable Saturday. I discovered Ropa Vieja – Braised Beef, Peppers, and Onions with a Cuban flair from The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl.
Here are the ingredients with a couple of my own omissions/substitutions:
3 pounds flank steak (mine came from The Fresh Market)
8 cups water
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 fennel bulb, course chopped (the recipe called for celery, to which I am not partial)
1 bay leaf
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 ¼ teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon whole black pepper, crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into ¼ inch wide strips
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
14 ounce can whole tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into ¼ inch wide strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into ¼ inch wide strips
½ cup green olives, pitted and chopped (recipe called for pimento-stuffed green olives)
(The recipe also called for 1 cup of frozen peas which I conveniently forgot to get when I went grocery shopping.)
WARNING – This is not a quick meal. It takes about 3 hours to finish. Now that you know, I’ll proceed with the instructions.
Combine beef, water, carrots, yellow onion, fennel, bay leaf, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large heavy pot (I use a Le Creuset enamel pot) and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, about 1 ½ hours until beef is tender. Remove beef to a bowl or plate. Pour liquid through a large strainer. (The cookbook here says to discard the solids, I say set them aside in a medium bowl. You’ll see why.) Return liquid to pot and boil until reduced to 3 cups. Pour reduced liquid into a boil. Wipe out the pot. While liquid is boiling (or when the meat is cool enough for you to touch), shred the meat with your fingers and set aside. The meat should be so tender that it almost falls apart.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the wiped out pot and sauté the green peppers and red onion until very tender (the recipe says this takes about 10 minutes, it took me more like 20 minutes – I like my onions crunch-free). While the peppers and onions are getting tender, open the can of tomatoes and add them to the set aside solids. Also add the tomato paste. With an electric emulsifier (a.k.a. boat motor), puree the mixture. Add the pureed mixture and shredded beef to the green peppers and onions. Cover the pot and simmer on low for about 20 minutes. While this is simmering, in a frying pan, pour in the remaining olive oil and sauté the red and yellow peppers…mmm, about 20 minutes. Once the peppers are tender, add them and the olives to the pot. Let simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or so. Serve with crusty bread or over white rice.
This turned out to be a very hearty meal with lots of leftovers. It would be great for a meat appreciative crowd. The cumin and olives added a subtle flair, but did not steal the show. I simply loved how the flank steak pulled apart after boiling and I also liked how the seasoning for the water added flavor to the beef. I will consider using flank steak with other beef stew recipes. We enjoyed our stew with a 2003 Castle Rock Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (~$12), but a Crianza Rioja or a Priorat would be tasty as well.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Here’s a great spread for crackers:
Savory Olive Cream Cheese Spread
8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
3 ounces of garlic or herb flavored goat cheese
¼ cup green and black olives, finely chopped
1 shallot, minced
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Thoroughly mix all ingredients and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Let stand at room temperature for ½ an hour before serving.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
As we strolled down
For dinner we walked about two blocks up to Bill’s Seafood Restaurant. Of course, we had a hankering for some seafood. Bill’s tends to be a popular place and when we arrived around 7:15 PM, the place was hopping. All the other parties in line had made reservations. When we finally flagged down the somewhat harried host, we were told it would be an hour wait. Bill’s does not have a bar, so we made an 8:15 PM reservation and took another walk down the street. While many shops were closed, a few were open later to take advantage of weekend tourists. We happily browsed and then returned to be promptly seated in a much quieter setting. Now what to order? We looked around at some of the dishes. The seafood (especially the shrimp) looked tempting, but, whoa, the steaks looked out of this world as well. What to do? Well, we asked for the wine list. Bill’s carried a 2001 Stags Leap Petite Syrah for $49. Yes, it was the most expensive, but with The Fresh Market retailing the bottle for $39, the price seemed a bargain for a restaurant. And, thus, I ordered the Filet Mignon & Fried Jumbo Shrimp ($22.95). Hubby stuck with the Fried Jumbo Shrimp only ($15.95). The meal came with a mini loaf of whole wheat bread as well as crackers & a cheese spread (vaguely white cheddary) for starters as well as a choice of salads and a choice of sides. I ordered the Caesar Salad while my spouse had the Garden variety. Both had fresh lettuce, but mine came with shaved Parmesan cheese. Yummy. My Filet was indeed medium rare and had the requisite grill marks. What a great pairing with the wine. But the Shrimp stole the show. Butterflied with a light breading and oh so sweet! Sheer heaven. As for the sides, baked potato for me and fries for my other half, merely mediocre. Our waitress was pleasant and allowed us to take our time and enjoy the meal. Bill’s is open year round for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And if the morning line to get in was any indication, Bill’s must serve a mean breakfast, too!
On Saturday we headed over to
Maria’s Family Restaurant on
The rest of our afternoon was spent on As Is walking the Woodland Trail and admiring the wild ponies and then driving around the marshy lake taking in the ducks, herons, and little Asian elk.
For dinner we made reservations at AJ’s…on the Creek (http://www.chincoteague.com/rest/AJS/index.html). And we were smart to reserve a table because this place was hopping as well. We ordered drinks to start – a Cosmopolitan and a Mojito Martini ($6 each). For appetizers – Clams Casino ($7) and Coconut Shrimp ($7). The 5 clams were baked in the half shell topped with chopped red bell peppers, onions, bacon, & herbs. It was served on a bed of rock salt. The clams were fantastic! The 6 shrimp were jumbo sized and served with an orange-mango sauce. While we enjoyed our appetizers we mulled over the wine list and the rest of the menu. Our waitress was fine with waiting a bit for us to order the rest of our meal. To be that flexible on a busy night without getting flustered is true talent. For wine we decided upon a 2005 Cline Zinfandel from
We had walked to AJ’s from the Anchor Inn (about a 45 minute stroll). We did not really want to walk back. And we did not have to thanks to the weekend Pony Express Trolley (http://www.chincoteague-va.gov/visitors/transportation.htm). For a 25 cent fare we were picked up at AJ’s and deposited right in front of our motel. A bargain indeed!
Chincoteague was a great place to get away for a couple of days.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
For this wine dinner we traveled to Languedoc. Here is a run down:
The reception began at 6 PM, but we were running late. While we had an ample pour of the sparkling, we were only able to sample the shrimp. The Saint-Hilaire sparkling has always been one of our low-cost favorites to drink by itself or to use as a base for Mimosas or Poinsettias. The Shrimp Remoulade on top of the house made waffle potato chip tasted lovely. We were disappointed that we missed the pork.
The scallop was seared just right and paired very well with the unoaked chardonnay. The pears were heavenly by themselves, but too sweet for the wine. The vinaigrette had a delicate balance, a hint of sweetness with a hint of heat from the horseradish.
The potato baked with goat cheese was a wonderful juxtaposition of plain and flavorful. And the fig was delightful. And while I enjoyed the pheasant breast, most of the participants at my table thought it was bland and tough (in other words “tastes like chicken”). The port wine sauce was too overpowering. The Minervois was very spicy; thus, not a great match with the pheasant. If the bird had been a touch gamey or had been grilled, I think the pairing would have been a success. The wine itself was very tasty and would have showed itself well with CanCan’s Hamburger.
Let’s start with the wine. This red is phenomenal! It’s bold and chewy and in your face. All of the red wine lovers at our table adored it. This was indeed the highlight of the evening. And the morel was a wonderful selection for this wine. I’m not a huge mushroom fan, but I gobbled this one up. Unfortunately, the lamb chop was a major disappointment. The meat was overcooked and lacked the rosemary-lavender flavor that the menu promised.
This first wine dinner of the Fall season lacked the polish of the ones in the Spring. While the wine selections were wonderful and gave great insight into the Languedoc region, the food was less than stellar. And since these dinners only serve petite portions, getting the all aspects of the meal right is very important. I fervently hope that the quality is brought up to the standards of last Spring. Besides immensely enjoying the wine, I liked the smaller group of diners. I particularly liked the couples at my table. One couple was older and knew a great deal about wine and cooking. The other couple was young and just beginning their wine adventures. It was delightful to converse with such a diverse group. I definitely would not write these dinners off. It’s a great way to meet fellow wine enthusiasts and the wines have always been on the mark. Let’s hope the kitchen gets the hang of the food for the next time.
JW wanted dessert (to share) and we both wanted coffee. The only dessert option for the night was Tres Leches Cake ($4.95) – in either vanilla or chocolate. We had never heard of a chocolate version, thus, we ordered it. The cake was very moist with decent chocolate flavor, but maybe not worth the near $5 price tag. The Café con Leche with sweetened condensed milk is another story, however. At $2.50 for a steaming mug, it’s a bargain. And Kuba Kuba can make a decaf version as well, which suited JW. Sinfully sweet and a great end to our girl’s night out.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
My long-time friend 007 and I went out to dinner last night. She resides south of the James. I live north of the James. We take turns (sort of) eating in each other’s neighborhood (neighborhood is very loosely defined). It was my turn to head south. Now, let’s face it, the southside of
And what was our final decision? Mexican – in the form of Cielito Lindo. This tiny place is located on
Jess, our most excellent waitress, seated us, brought us the requisite chips and salsa, and proceeded to tell us that everything was good. I started with a house margarita ($4.50). 007 wasn’t sure if she wanted one or not. Mine arrived. The mix is one of the best I’ve experienced in
The menu contained a number of temptations: Cielito Soup (cream of roasted red pepper and cilantro), Quesadillas with blackened chicken, Nachos with lump crabmeat, Stofado de Carne (Mexican beef stew). 007 decided fairly quickly – Tilapia ala
The combination of friendly, attentive wait staff; the best-tasting margaritas in Richmond; and killer dishes like the tilapia make Cielito Lindo the best Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in Richmond. It’s worth heading across the river.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Race Weekend in
Friday, September 08, 2006
Last night we drank a little $10 Argentinean gem: Gouguenheim Winery 2004 Malbec from the Valle Escondido in
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Thank goodness Hurricane Ernesto passed by with a few tree limbs down and a little lake in our driveway. We were smart and stayed in for dinner. The menu for the evening, you ask? Italian sausage braised in tomato sauce served with roasted peppers and melted fresh mozzarella on French bread slices.
First of all, I roasted a red bell pepper: blackening on top of a gas burner and sealing it in a plastic zip-lock style bag until cool. I then peeled off the blackened skin, got rid of the seeds, sliced it into 8 pieces, and set it aside.
Then, in a small bowl, I mixed 1 teaspoon of dried basil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set it aside.
Next, I opened a 14 ½ ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes and dumped them in a 1 quart pot. I took out my electric emulsifier/whipper (for any of you Emeril fans, it’s the boat motor) and pureed the tomatoes (no tomato chunks for me!).
Then, I took 2 sweet Italian sausages (mine were from The Fresh Market) and cut them in half to make 4 small links, added them to the tomatoes, sprinkled about 2 teaspoons of dried oregano over the sauce, and added 1 bay leaf. I stirred up everything and turned the stove burner to low, letting the pot simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. About halfway through the simmer, I poked a couple of holes on either side of the sausage with a sharp knife.
About 20 minutes before I served the sausages, I turned the oven on to 475 degrees to preheat and assembled the pepper-cheese-French bread thingies. I cut 8 slices of French bread, ½ inch thick, and brushed one side with the olive oil and basil mixture and then placed the slices (oil side up) on a cookie sheet lined with foil. I then cut ¼ inch slices of fresh mozzarella and put them on top of the bread and topped the cheese with a roasted red pepper slice. Into the oven they went for about 10 minutes or until the cheese was slightly melted.
To serve, I placed 2 sausages on each plate, spooned sauce over them, and sprinkled with grated Romano cheese (none of the canned stuff, please!). Each plate also received 4 French bread thingies along with a few plain slices of French bread to mop up any remaining sauce.
I enjoyed how the sausage and the sauce melded together. Neither one overpowered the other. And roasted red peppers are always a favorite. And, usually, with a dish like this and if I have any on hand, I would pop open a bottle of red Italian wine (Chianti Classico, Barbera d’Asti, or Montepulciano); however, neither my husband nor I felt like wine, thus, we had iced tea.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
I recently finished the novel Brick Lane by Monica Ali. The book portrays a Bangladeshi family living in
For last night’s dinner I selected two recipes that were fairly simple and that did not require me to visit an Asian/Indian market. And, of course, I slightly adjusted a couple of ingredients.
The first dish was Karahi Chicken & Tomatoes with Mint
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 to 2 cups of water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped (the recipe called for scallions, but The Fresh Market was out of them)
1 teaspoon fresh shredded ginger root
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (the recipe called for crushed dried red chilies – is this the same thing?)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro (also called coriander)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
2 tomatoes, peeled and deseeded using my handy-dandy peeler deseeder (the recipe called for 3 tomatoes peeled, deseeded, and roughly chopped – I’m not partial to tomato chunks, thus, the need for a deseeder; the deseeder usually produces much more liquid than deseeding by hand, thus the decrease in number of tomatoes)
And now to the preparation: Place the chicken and water in a pot and let come to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Set pot of chicken aside. Heat oil in a heavy pan and add the onions. Cook onions until tender over medium to low heat. Add the chicken (without the liquid) and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes on medium heat (let the chicken water/broth cool and freeze it for later use). Add shredded ginger, crushed red peppers, lemon juice, cilantro, mint, tomatoes, and salt. Let mixture simmer (15-20 minutes) until most of the tomato liquid has reduced, stirring occasionally.
I really liked the lemon juice in this dish. The mint was a bit understated and the crushed red peppers added minimal heat (but this could have been due to the heat in the second dish). The fresh tomato sauce was familiar since I make fresh sauce for pasta from time to time. The boiling of the chicken before adding it to the frying pan was an interesting technique to ensure the doneness of the chicken. The chicken maintained its moistness throughout the cooking process.
The second dish was Balti Stir-Fried Vegetables with Cashew Nuts. The original recipe served four people; I pared it down for two.
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into matchsticks (the recipe also called for a green bell pepper which I omitted)
1 zucchini, cut into matchsticks and slated to draw out excess water (the recipe also called for green beans which I omitted)
1 small onion, chopped (once again, The Fresh Market was out of scallions)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 bay leaves (the recipe called for curry leaves; I did not have curry leaves and had noticed in another recipe that bay leaves could be substituted; I have no idea as to the flavor differences)
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red peppers (the recipe called for 4 dried red chilies)
A handful of cashews (or more) to taste
1 teaspoon salt (I used Haleakala Red from Soul of the Sea because I had it on hand)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Heat the oil in a wok or heavy pan and fry the bay leaves, cumin seeds, and crushed red pepper for about a minute over medium heat. Add the onions and stir fry for about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and carrots and cashew, stir fry for 3-5 minutes. Add the zucchini, salt, and lemon juice. Stir fry until zucchini is of desired doneness.
This dish had much more heat to it because the crushed peppers were initially fried in the oil. The heat even permeated the cashews. The bell peppers added a slight sweetness. This was a great way to serve vegetables. I could probably even add boiled chicken strips to this dish and serve with rice (another future blog entry!).
I will admit that this was a very conservative foray into Indian cuisine, but both dishes were very tasty and did not take all day to prepare. To wash down our meal we drank a 2002
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
My friend ST keeps a few laying hens and I was the recipient of a dozen brown beauties. So tonight, the menu is as follows:
Mimosas (Gratien & Meyer Brut French sparkling wine from Saumur, not from concentrate orange juice, and juice from a lime wedge)
Scrambled eggs seasoned with salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of dried chervil
Market bacon (from the Fresh Market)
Surry sausage links (again, from the Fresh Market)
Homemade hash browns with Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, and red bell pepper (boil the peeled and chunked potatoes until fork tender; while the potatoes are boiling, sauté chopped onion and pepper until tender – use bacon grease, if possible; add the potatoes to onion and pepper and cook to desired crispiness; season with salt and pepper)
Monday, August 21, 2006
juice of one orange (fresh squeezed, please)
juice from a lemon wedge
1 ounce of your favorite chilled vodka (I used Three Olives this go round)
1/2 ounce of your favorite orange liqueur (Gran Gala at this point in time)
Pour all in a martini-type glass. Enjoy. Repeat for yourself or friends as you see fit. Make sure no one has to drive anywhere when imbibing.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
In reasearching the wine I ran across some additional information on Cru Beaujolais from The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia. There are 10 Cru villages:
Cote de Brouilly
All of these villages use Gamay grapes. The Cote de Brouilly can also use Pinot Noir grapes. Good Beaujolais years make for more enticing and complex Cru Beaujolais. The lighter style can pair with a huge variety of food from fish and seafood to burgers and fries. A great red wine choice for the summer.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I hop into a kitchen gadget store every time I get the chance. I’ve drooled over gadgets. I’ve cursed purchased gadgets that did not live up to promises. A couple of items have stood the test of time. Both came from Williams-Sonoma.
The first one is an olive pitter/cherry stoner (I’ve never used it on cherries, although my husband did once for a splendid cherry pie). I’ve slowly acquired a taste for olives over the years starting with very mild oil-cured black olives and now preferring large green Sicilian beauties. Olives with pits seem to be firmer than the pre-pitted kind and I like the firmed style. Trying to pit olives with a knife requires patience that I’m not accustomed to doling out. The pit simply will not relinquish the olive meat. The pitter makes my life (and my chicken with olives and capers) much easier.
Number two gadget is a tomato peeler/deseeder. My husband found this many years ago in a Williams-Sonoma catalog (now, it can be purchased in the stores). He ordered it as a surprise for me. What a godsend! I had recently begun to cook and had been making fresh sauce the slow and inefficient way via a paring knife and thumb action. Not only did it take up a lot of time, it also led to a loss of flavorful liquid. The peeler deseeder originates from
And now to my most recent acquisition from Sur la Table – Bodum Double Wall Thermo Glasses. I purchased the Pavinas which hold nine ounces. The box says mouth blown, dishwasher safe, microwave safe. Since the glasses are double walled they essentially encase one glass inside of another, thus, keeping liquid temperatures more stable (hot stays hot, cold stays cold). Another perk is that cold liquids do not sweat the outside of the glass (glasses do not stick to coasters or leave water rings on wooden tables). So far, I’ve been very pleased. The Bodum series of double walled glasses come in an assortment of sizes from iced tea to espresso. Mine were the next size up from the espresso size and retailed for $14.95. A small caveat – the glasses seem very delicate and the warnings include not placing the glasses in a crowded dishwasher. I have washed them several times in their own space and so far, so good.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Sunday - Half Price House Wine (the house wine's not stellar, but it's drinkable & cheap!)
Monday - $3 Half Wine Glass (generally a 3 oz. pour if memory serves)
Tuesday - $5 Regional Wine Glass (Bob, the Wine Director is always good at selecting very nice regional wines)
Wednesday - Half Price Bottles from the Brasserie List (this is the bargain of the year! Last week we had a fantastic Cotes du Ventoux for under $15!)
Thursday - 25% Off Reserve Wine List (the reserve list has some gems worth drooling over)
Friday - Open Glass Night (all wine from the Brasserie List available by the glass - what a way to try before going back on Wed. and ordering the entire bottle at half price)
Saturday - 15% Off Retail Wines for Off Premise Consumption
A Votre Sante!
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
A note about the wine list. Maggiano's has an extensive list and some well-known labels. Because the labels are so well-known, the retail prices are well-known. While most restaurants mark up wines to double retail, Maggiano's prices go well beyond that mark. Even the upper end wines are more than double retail. With prices being so exorbitant, we generally pass on the wine.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Zeus Gallery Café expanded its size fairly recently. We decided to drop in on a sweltering Monday night. I’m sorry to report that the cooling equipment did not receive an expansion, much to our discomfort. We forged ahead anyway with dinner, drooling over the chalkboard list of items. To drink we still went for a hefty red wine – 2003 Burrton Napa Special Selection Merlot. The alcohol in this wine burned all the way down, even though it had some fruit and weight. In reading the label we discovered that the alcohol content ranged from 14.3 – 16.3 %. We definitely had a bottle in the 16% range. Thus, my husband drank sparingly since he was driving, and I was a touch loopy after dinner.
We skipped appetizers (just too hot) and dived into the entrees. I ordered the Grilled Filet Mignon with Red Pepper Béarnaise served with a White Truffle Oil Potato Cake. Great piece of beef. The Red Pepper Béarnaise was more béarnaise than red pepper, thus, slightly disappointing for someone who expected to taste something new. Potato cakes are always good. The white truffle oil added an ever so slight earthiness. My spouse opted for the Veal Saltimbocca with Pancetta Ham, Sage, Parmesan, and Arugula over Linguini with a Tomato & Veal Stock Pan Sauce. Tender cuts of veal and very thick pancetta. The tomato and veal stock sauce was a delicious balance, not too tomato-y. The meal was served with the always delectable Metro Bakery bread.
Zeus always pleases. Interesting food combinations, always a decent rotating wine list, and a cozy, casual atmosphere. But we will wait until the weather cools to return.
Monday, July 31, 2006
We had a birthday party for my husband over the weekend. One of the items I served was a Shrimp and Pasta Salad. I adapted my version from a June 2001 Bon Appetit recipe.
First of all, whisk the following in a large bowl to make a dressing:
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons of rinsed capers
1 tablespoon whole grain
A pinch of dried crushed red pepper (or more to your taste)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped fresh basil
After whisking, set aside. Cook about ½ pound of pasta (I prefer bowties) until done. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place the cooled pasta into the bowl with the dressing and coat pasta with dressing. Add one pound of large pre-cooked, de-tailed shrimp and mix again. Set aside.
Finely mince up one shallot and sauté in a large pan with a touch of olive oil over medium heat. Add a dash of salt and pepper to the shallot. Once the shallot has softened, add two zucchini, cut up into cubes (I salt the zucchini cubes ahead of time to draw out any bitterness). Lower the burner temperature a notch. Once the zucchini has slightly softened, remove from the heat and let cool. Add the zucchini and shallot to the pasta and shrimp and mix. Place in the refrigerator for an least an hour.
Serve pasta with fresh grated Romano cheese sprinkled on top.
Friday, July 28, 2006
We had leftover
Sauté a chopped up onion in olive oil until very tender in a large frying pan
Add steak, sliced into bite-sized slivers and stir some more
Add dried basil and oregano
Add fresh peeled and deseeded tomatoes – about 7 small ones (thanks to SMO and her garden)
Add one minced clove of garlic
Add a few chopped green olives
Let concoction simmer for a while until most of the water has evaporated from the sauce
Serve over the pasta of your choice
Enjoy with a light fruity red wine